Marvel’s Avengers PS4 Review – Marvel’s Avengers is a much better game than anyone was expecting. Much of the early word on the game was negative – from last year’s E3 reports of “floaty” combat, to hot takes from the recent betas yammering about the game not having enough structure or variety. Until reviewers finally got their hands on Avengers (on the same day as the folks that purchased the Deluxe Edition), the gaming community seemed poised for an Anthem-style pile on. If I am being honest, I was still hoping for the best, but my expectations for Marvel’s Avengers were quite low.
But to give the community credit, the zeitgeist on this game turned around very quickly – within hours of the first folks taking a swing at it. Give gamers a good game, and we react in kind. I’m happy to see the gaming press eat a little humble pie if that means I can report that Marvel’s Avengers is actually very fun – with a great single-player campaign and some serviceable (if somewhat confusing) endgame content. Folks, we have a winner here, and it makes me excited to see where Crystal Dynamics can take the Avengers in the future.
Marvel’s Avengers PS4 Review
Kamala Who? Kamala Khan!
Perhaps the most brilliant move the creators of Marvel’s Avengers made was to put relative comic book newcomer Kamala Khan front and center. Seeing the events of this game through her eyes gives Marvel’s Avengers a freshness and optimism that I simply was not expecting from my time with the beta. Kamala brings out the fan in all of us, and her shameless love of the Avengers makes it feel okay to put your jaded opinions aside and simply geek out on spending time with these characters.
The opening act of the game – which I won’t spoil here – is utter brilliance, introducing us to our main characters in a way that at once humanizes them and convinces the player to set aside their MCU prejudices concerning the character design. The folks making this game have captured the spirit of these long-time characters, and comic book fans – who endure artist changes all the time – understand that the faces and costumes don’t matter, it’s the essence under the surface that counts. This game knows the souls of the Avengers and the moment that realization dawns on the player is early and powerful.
Before long, the events depicted in the beta take place. An earth-shattering accident occurs (seemingly the fault of the Avengers), killing thousands and converting many others into Inhumans, newly minted superhumans that may or may not have control over their powers. The Avengers are disbanded in disgrace. In the panicked public discourse that follows, the Inhumans are declared to be menaces to society. A powerful new organization – Advanced Idea Mechanics – rises up to help gather the new superhumans and contain them. Spoiler – AIM is an organization of authoritarian turds.
Kamala Khan has become an Inhuman and is secretly working behind the scenes with dreams of eventually joining a mysterious rebellion to resist AIM. One thing leads to another, and she realizes that she must re-assemble the Avengers to fight AIM and affirm the rights of Inhumans to not be persecuted and killed. The rest of the game follows Kamala as she tracks down the Avengers one by one, infecting them with her optimism and sense of responsibility, and bringing them back into the fold. This is a great hook for the game, allowing for some serious twists and fun reveals.
The performances – Kamala’s in particular – are rock solid. Tony’s breezy jokes that cover up his insecurities with bravado, Bruce’s quiet brilliance, guilt, and wit, Cap’s stoic heroism, the way that none of the other Avengers touches Natasha – ever. All of that is baked into the DNA of the game. But Kamala is the standout character here – an instant star standing out in this group of luminaries. Her geeky enthusiasm is utterly infectious, earning her a spot in the top tier of Marvel characters for fans less familiar with her comic exploits.
Controls, Upgrades, And Gear
The player spends time playing as each of the heroes, often in spectacular set-pieces rivalling anything in the feature films. The intro that players received to each character in the beta was just the tip of the iceberg – there are far deeper training sessions built into the structure of the game. Each character plays in a unique way while using similar enough controls to keep the player from being completely overwhelmed. Tony flies, Black Widow shoots, the Hulk hulks, and all of this is done in an intuitive enough way that the player never feels befuddled by the control scheme.
Of course, the deeper the player gets into the game, the more the character paths diverge. Each character has an enormous skill tree – most of which you won’t even touch during the campaign. Characters earn XP under the hood while you play, typically receiving a skill point or two to invest after each mission. Skills unlock new moves – or power up old ones – which in turn unlock new strategies for each character. I’ve been focusing on Hulk in the endgame, and his move set is now so far beyond what he started with that I haven’t done a basic combo in ages.
Layered on top of all of this is Marvel’s Avengers loot system. Each character has four basic loot slots to fill. During the campaign, it is usually safe enough to simply press the “equip best loot” button and break everything else down for resources. But by the time you venture into the post-campaign content, you will need to start paying more attention to what you are keeping and getting rid of. Each piece of loot can be levelled up individually by spending the various materials you find all over the place, meaning that valuable gear can stay valuable for more than a few levels – if you want to invest in it.
What’s Up With This Endgame?
Marvel’s Avengers endgame content mostly consists of a loot grind, but a fun one. Finishing the campaign is a bit overwhelming, as the postgame unlocks to reveal a confusing sprawl. Figuring out what to do next can be a bit of a chore, as the player instantly realizes that they are severely underpowered for much of the content available. The campaign makes you feel powerful. The endgame reveals that you are not.
Much of the problem I had with the endgame centred on the very weird UI the player navigates to select new missions. Activities are ostensibly selected on the Avengers holographic war table, but quest lines are tracked elsewhere in the character UI. This led to me selecting activities and questlines that I wanted to pursue in the character UI and then having no idea how to find them on the war table.
But once I got it all figured out, the game began to flow again for me nicely. I settled into the power grind, enjoying jumping into missions with friends and random other players. Most of the endgame missions are fairly same-y, but there is plenty of room for this aspect of the game to expand. There are five or six basic mission types which you will encounter pretty quickly. But running these missions is still fun, and of course, playing superhero with friends is a blast. The game scales encounters so the weakest team member is viable, which makes higher-level characters feel truly super.
Though there is some variety in daily supervillain hunts and a few story missions after the campaign, I would love to see further storylines expand past the AIM storyline and into other corners of the Marvel Universe. The five AIM outposts that you repeatedly raid will get old very quickly, so I’m hoping that we see the group venture to other locales as the game grows.
Microtransactions And Hero Challenge Cards
There are a zillion different ways to expand and enhance your characters in Marvel’s Avengers, each carefully constructed to keep the player coming back for more. Beyond the faction grind and loot hunt, each character has a “Hero Challenge Card” to pursue. Think of Challenge Cards as Battle Passes. Each hero has daily and weekly quests they can pursue in order to unlock points – which in turn unlock tiers of cosmetic rewards on their Card. This is some slow-going stuff. By the time I finished the campaign, I had unlocked around two tiers on each hero’s card – out of forty.
Hero Card rewards range from nameplate decals to full skins, but also include stuff like emotes and takedown animations. Cosmetic items of this sort can also be purchased from faction vendors, which is the primary reason to pick up daily faction quests.
Of course, some skins and other cosmetics are only available as microtransaction purchases. But it is with relief that I can say that those skins and cosmetics are the ONLY things available as microtransaction purchases. There is zero nonsense hidden in Marvel Avenger’s business plan. No power enhancers, or XP boosters anywhere in sight. You pay your money, you get your Joe Fixit skin, simple as that. This is utterly unnecessary to enjoy the game and easily avoided.
Cap, We’re Experiencing Technical Difficulties
I think that it’s pretty clear that I’ve enjoyed my time with Marvel’s Avengers. But I don’t want to give the impression that there isn’t room for improvement. I ran into some pretty severe bugs and performance issues while playing the campaign (surprisingly less so during multiplayer).
Interestingly, the game’s performance seemed to get worse the further into the story I got. About eight hours in, I started noticing framerate drops, particularly during dramatic cut scenes. An hour or two later, those framerate issues crept into the gameplay. Then, about an hour before the game’s finale, everything went entirely to crap in a whirlwind of malfunctions.
I won’t bore you with the details, but this complete breakdown of Marvel’s Avengers functionality was impressive in its scope and variety. Big games have bugs, particularly at launch, but this was one of the most extended sequences of a game slowly breaking down that I’ve ever experienced. It was like watching a very, very slow train crash. Interestingly, when I was telling the story to my PSU colleagues, one of them reported having the exact same experience in the exact same spot. A hard reboot cleared things up, but still, wow.
I’ve also had some problems wrestling the camera into giving me the angle that I want when it clearly has other ideas (try leaving the war table on the bridge of the Chimera and running upstairs; you’ll see what I mean). And I’m not super enthused about some of the platforming/wall running sections of the campaign, which seem designed to kill players over and over again just to make them sit through an extensive load screen.
Marvel’s Avengers Is A Keeper
But let’s be real. Many online games are unplayable during the first week after launch, so by comparison, Avengers is in remarkably good shape. And none of this can distract from the fact that Marvel’s Avengers is one badass game. All of these issues can be quickly patched out, and the bottom line is that Marvel’s Avengers has good bones. A great deal of meat can be added to this structure, to the point where Avengers will eventually be a sprawling epic of a game. Hell, it already is pretty epic.
I don’t have a “home” game that I return to over and over again. Some people play FIFA or NBA 2K. Some get deeply into Destiny or escape into Call of Duty every year. I bounce from game to game, finishing the campaign, doodling with multiplayer, and moving on. I believe that with Marvel’s Avengers, I have found my game. This game will move to PS5 with me, and continue to grow in the years to come, and I am here for it. I can hulk, and hulk, and hulk some more. The feeling of screaming and smashing stuff is absolutely glorious. Marvel’s Avengers is a keeper.
Marvel’s Avengers is now available on the PlayStation Store and at retailers everywhere.
Review code kindly supplied by the publisher.